Sonia Boyce OBE RA has been announced as the representative for Great Britain at the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2021.

Known for her highly innovative and experimental approach to art-making, in the 1980s Boyce was one of the leading artists of the British Black Arts Movement. More recently, she was the subject of a major retrospective exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery in 2018 and was also lead researcher on the three-year AHRC-funded project Black Artists and Modernism, which explored how artists of African and Asian descent in Britain feature in the story of twentieth century art.

Using performance and audio-visual elements in her work, since the 1990s Boyce’s practice has become increasingly improvisational and collaborative, inviting a broad cross-section of participants to come together and speak, sing or move in relation to the past and the present. She was also made an OBE in last year’s New Year’s Honours list.

On accepting the British Council commission, Boyce commented: “You could have knocked me down with a feather when I got the call to tell me I had been chosen to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale 2021 – it was like a bolt out of the blue. Obviously, I’m extremely honoured, excited – and nervous. I’m eager to start this creative journey, exploring the experience with others who agree to work with me along the way.”

Emma Dexter, British Council Director Visual Arts, Commissioner of the British Pavilion and Chair of the British Pavilion Selection Committee, added: “We are eagerly anticipating her exhibition, where collaboration, improvisation and dialogue will undoubtedly play a key role. Boyce’s work raises important questions about the nature of creativity, questioning who makes art, how ideas are formed, and the nature of authorship. At such a pivotal moment in the UK’s history, the Committee has chosen an artist whose work embodies inclusiveness, generosity, experimentation and the importance of working together.”

The British Council has been responsible for the British Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia since 1937, showcasing the best of the UK’s artists, architects, designers and curators. Later this year, the British Council will appoint an Associate Curator to work alongside Sonia Boyce and the British Council team to develop the exhibition.

The 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2021 will run from May – November 2021.

1. © Portrait of Sonia Boyce by Paul Cochrane, courtesy of UAL, 2013

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